KNOXVILLE (WATE) - No one wants to be in the hospital. Certainly not the patients at East Tennessee Children's Hospital whose beautiful faces are often masked because of sickness.
Sandra Coggins does want to be there. She wants to be there so she can hand out a toothbrush or the occasional teddy bear to a child.
She knows the children and their families are struggling and she wants to help comfort them.
That's why she has volunteered at the hospital for two years.
"For the first couple of weeks, I went home and cried. It was very, very sad," Coggins said. "But if you can go in there and smile and give them something to play with, maybe get a smile back, it's a good day."
But it wasn't the toiletries or teddy bears that brought her to the hospital. It was music.
If music soothes the savage beast, it also brightens the saddest heart.
Sandra Coggins knows that. That's why once a week she plays the clavanova in the lobby at Children's Hospital and rarely alone.
On the day we were with Sandra, children joined her in singing Old McDonald's Farm. It happens often, she said.
"I soon discovered that little kids loved to come and sing. And so for just a few moments, they forgot they were at a hospital, and for their parents for just those few moments they relaxed," she said.
Music brought her, but what Sandra, a retired school teacher, realized was that she loved being around these children. She had a passion for it.
She's not alone. Children's has many passionate volunteers.
Cheryl Allmon is the Interim Director of Volunteer Services at Children's Hospital.
"They serve in every capacity you could imagine," Allmon said. "We have volunteers that work from surgery lounge to information desk, to cuddle babies. They're everywhere."
Sandra is also cuddler. She comforts infants born, through no fault of their own, drug dependent and who need special attention.
We followed her into a room and heard an infant crying struggling with his drug dependence. But when Sandra picked up the child and began to rock it, the child quieted.
"When you understand the pain that these children are going through, to know that their blood pressure will even out when you hold them, they sleep," she said. "It's very very heart warming."
Sandra Coggins - a true example of the spirit of East Tennessee.
If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.